Useful models for biotechnology hazard identification: What is this thing called ‘familiarity’?

Ad van Dommelen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book / Report / Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


The notion of ‘familiarity’ has been propagated as a new policy tool to bridge the gap between scientific expertise and regulatory practice in the context of biotechnology risk assessment. This chapter analyses the scientific merits of the concept of familiarity. This criterion is designed to amalgamate normative and scientific aspects of the biosafety issue. Understanding the scientific meaning of ‘familiarity’ in this context is a prerequisite for appreciating its normative role in regulatory decision-making. The concept of ‘familiarity’ can only serve its purpose in biosafety assessment when it is reconstructed in terms of its underlying biological models. The Economic Cooperation and Development has cited familiarity with the environment as a relevant safety consideration. However, when it comes to identifying possible impacts of genetically manipulated organisms on ecosystems, there is no such thing as ‘familiarity with the environment’ without explicit consideration of the interactive relations between that environment and the organism.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Social Management of Genetic Engineering
EditorsPeter Wheale, René von Schomberg
PublisherTaylor and Francis AS
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9780429752179
ISBN (Print)9780429423499
Publication statusPublished - 23 May 2019

Bibliographical note

1st Edition: published 1998


Dive into the research topics of 'Useful models for biotechnology hazard identification: What is this thing called ‘familiarity’?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this